The Queen

Athaliah Samuel, photographed on December 15, 2012.

I've had an opportunity to photograph a beauty queen or two, beginning my career with a
photograph of Janelle "Penny" Commissiong and doing a photo or two of Giselle La Ronde-West and Wendy Fitzwilliam.

The high-stakes fashion and beauty world isn't something I've spent too much time considering professionally generally and no time at all contemplating since returning to full-time photography seven years ago.

There are far too many enthusiastic photographers running around and way too many keen young women posing for them for that whole scene to look like anything other than bees in a particularly sweet flowering field. I leave the pollination allusions up to you.
A few months ago, though, I stepped into some particularly noxious discussions on Facebook about Athaliah Samuel, this country's 2012 Miss World candidate.

Triggering this discussion were some particularly awful photographs of the young woman which I saw as an indictment of the photographer's skill and judgement, not the model's.
Many people don't realize the power that a photographer has over a photography session and how pliable a young model can be when the person behind the camera exercises that authority.
Add inexperience into the mix and truly awful things can result.

Athaliah had trusted her photographer, her makeup artist and her stylist on that shoot and they had all failed her terribly. While I was railing about all this, Damian Luk Pat stepped up to the challenge and provided the young model with photographs that were more in keeping with her role and her beauty.
Imagine my surprise then to realize that Athaliah had been in touch with me via Facebook private message politely and quite flatteringly asking for a photo session.

As with all such requests, I'd deferred the opportunity, suggesting that other young photographers might be keen to photograph her. By now I was basically appalled that I'd had a hand in throwing the young woman to the photographic wolves and vowed to make good at the first opportunity.

That chance came along this weekend when I needed someone to be photographed for a lighting talk and demonstration. Multiple birds were lined up to be brained with a single artful throw on this one.
Athaliah proved to be everything I'd expected from her interviews and responses to the many cruel comments that had been made about her.

This is a young woman who has had no silver spoon opportunities who intends to upgrade her life's cutlery and is doing so with energy, enthusiasm and a remarkably positive outlook. I was mightily impressed by her and I hope the photographs we did nudge her along on her life's journey.
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